Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing Articles (Part 2 of 21)

Here are more reasons for starting with articles.

Too many writers want to start with a book without proving themselves as writers first. This is a proven strategy for rejection. Writing isn't something we perfect overnight. It takes hard work and dedication.

Geoff Colvin's research for Talent Is Overrated urges "deliberate practice—a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain."[1]

His research refers to the ten-year rule which states that talented performers don't become great "without at least ten years of very hard preparation, and goes on to add, ". . . authors produce their greatest work only after twenty or more years of devoted effort . . . ."[2]

Think of them as your apprenticeship. You write and sell articles to learn the craft and to understand the business.

More than 100 of my articles hit print before I started a book. I look back at those experiences as my invaluable apprenticeship. I had to find writing time in the middle of my busy work world and I proved I could do it and meet deadlines. In my diligence to publish, I convinced myself that writing was what I truly wanted to do.

Too many writers don't want to put in the grunt work of learning the rules and applying them. Once I started writing books, however, I knew what I was doing. No matter how well we think we can write, none of us comes into publishing fully developed. We need to master techniques and skills.

Another reason for articles first is that you work for shorter periods of time and get feedback faster. It's easier to handle a rejected article on which you spent three weeks than on a book that took you two years to write and it never sold.

If I first write shorter pieces, 
my first book will be superior to what I could have done earlier. 


[1] Talented Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin (NY: New York, Penguin Group, 2008) p. 63

[2] Op.cit. p. 62.


  1. Thank you for the encouragement to write articles. Many in my writers group do not take this route, and it seems like the narrow road that a few find. I always thought I wrote articles because I have a short attention span. :) However, like you said, I am learning the craft and have started my first book after having 100 articles published.

  2. Laura didn't agree with my nudging want-to-be novelists to focus on articles first. Before I tell you a couple of things to consider, I want to point out that I write both fiction and nonfiction. My novel, The Promises of Ophelia Bennett, will be out in early 2013.

    Good writing is good writing. The basics are the same. In articles we use fiction techniques, such as writing good stories (illustrations). Good fiction writers also need to learn to write narrative and factual material.

    There are differences between them. But if you learn the basics, you can move on to write better fiction.

  3. Great advice for all aspiring fiction and non-fictionn writers. Thanks, Cec.

  4. Cec, thanks for all you do to help us become better writers!

  5. You make excellent points, as I said before. I don't disagree with the advice, especially not for someone who has to make a living with his/her writing as soon as possible. And writing to a deadline, working with an editor on rewrites under pressure are important disciplines. I'm not brand new to writing, having worked on it for more than 25 years (lots of conferences, tons of books, reading everything I can get my hands on about it, & then doing it constantly) but not getting really serious about it until about 10 years ago. I'm only saying that in order to write good articles & get them sold, I feel I would have to put my fiction writing way in the background & I'm not willing to do that right now. Maybe one of these days but not now. I have about 10 different nonfiction books in various stages of development but no platform from which to get published on any of them so have had to abandon those projects for now. Being a full time homemaker & grandmother doesn't allow for much of a platform out there! Anyway, I'm eager to read the rest of your advice on this subject because it's always good!!


What are your thoughts?